The area was devastated in 2011 by an earthquake and tsunami and a resulting nuclear disaster. The Japanese government hopes the Olympics will show the region is recovering and that products made there are safe.
Some Olympic softball and baseball games will be played there to showcase the region. "This will be an opportunity for me to show the world where Japan stands and what kind of changes Japan will be undergoing," Kawase said through an interpreter.
She said she also hoped to focus on volunteers at the Olympics. "I think this really fits with the Japanese spirit of giving and contributing," she said. Kawase is highly acclaimed and became the youngest director to receive the Camera d'Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival with her 1997 film "Suzaku."
Her best known recent films are "Sweet Bean" and "Still the Water." The Tokyo documentary will be financed by the International Olympic Committee and the local organizing committee, and is a requirement under the hosting contract.
Toshiro Muto, the CEO of the Tokyo organizing committee, said the IOC owns the copyright to the film and "has the right to make key decisions in the creation of the film." The documentary of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics by Kon Ichikawa, titled "Tokyo Olympiad," is generally regarded as one of the most important in the genre, along with Leni Riefenstahl's "Olympia" from the 1936 Berlin Games.
Ichikawa's film was controversial at the time and unsettled organizers who wanted a more traditional treatment of the Olympics rather than Ichikawa's more poetic view. A Japanese reporter, posing a question to Kawase, described her typical film as "quiet and slow-flowing." He then asked how this approach suited something "fast moving" like the Olympics.
She said her style was unlikely to change, and then questioned assumptions about what an Olympic film should look like. "When it comes to the Tokyo Olympics, we cannot just say it will be speedy just because it's a sports-related theme," she said.
In a statement, the IOC said Kawase will be only the fifth woman to direct the official Olympic film. She said she hoped to help make a path for women in Japan and for other female film makers. "It's a fact I am a woman, so I will create from my own standpoint, from the perspective of a female," she said.
Kawase said she did not have a title for the film, which is likely to be finished in the spring of 2021. "At this point I don't have any idea at all," she said. "But as usual I think this is something that will suddenly come to me."
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